The orchard oriole (male shown here) is one of the first songbird species in Georgia to migrate south in fall following breeding season. It is usually gone by the end of August. It spends the winter as far south as Venezuela. DAN PANCAMO/CREATIVE COMMONS
Photo: Dan Pancamo
Photo: Dan Pancamo

Late summer is a super busy time for wildlife

It’s the end of August, when the world is tilting hard toward autumn. For Georgia’s wildlife, especially birds, it’s an extra busy time of year.

Although most songbirds have become quiet and are not as easily seen now, there are more birds in the woods and fields at this time of year than any other time. The reason is that the young from this year’s nesting season are now on their own and have become part of the avian population.

Songbirds may look unkempt and even scraggly now because, depending on the species, they are completing a total molt or partial molt of feathers. The bright plumages that the birds sported in spring and for most of summer have become sun-bleached and damaged from scraping against trees and rocks — and must be replaced.

Uppermost on the agendas of many birds, though, is fall migration. Several of them already are well on their way or perhaps already ensconced in winter grounds in Latin America. Orchard orioles, Louisiana water thrushes, American redstarts, cerulean warblers, prothonotary warblers, blue-winged warblers, yellow warblers and blue-gray gnatcatchers commenced fall migration around mid-July.

Many male ruby-throated hummingbirds, too, began departing in July. Right now, the majority of ruby throats at feeders are local females and juveniles and northern-nesting hummers passing through. In another three weeks nearly all of them will be gone, too.

Purple martins also are heading south. Flocks of tree swallows and barn swallows can be seen perched on utility wires with migration on their minds. Large flocks of chimney swifts may be seen over chimneys at dusk.

For other wildlife, late summer is just as busy. White-tailed deer are shedding the velvet off their antlers. Squirrels are giving birth to their second brood. More snakes — venomous and non-venomous — are present now than at any other time during the year because nearly all of Georgia’s snake species give birth during August and September.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be in first quarter on Thursday. Only two planets are visible now. Jupiter is in the south around dusk; it will appear near the moon on Thursday night. Saturn rises out of the east just after dark.

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